MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health
Research quick links
- Congenital disorders
- Childhood origins of adult disease
- Electronic health records
- Genetic epidemiology
- Growth & development
- Health inequalities
- Life course research
- Obesity, nutrition & physical activity
- Research for policy & practice
- Screening & surveillance
- Statistical methods
- Vision & eyes
Using research to develop policy
Research shows that early experience influences life chances, the development of human capital, and long-term health. This has led to a general policy emphasis in the UK on prevention and early intervention. However, our analysis found that there are few examples of the evidence base being useful in shaping specific policies, despite the potential to do so, and some examples of policy misunderstanding science.
Will our children be healthy adults? Applying science to public health policy (pdf)
This article is based on the 2009 Royal College of Physicians Milroy Lecture, given by Professor Catherine Law. It discusses how minor changes to the perspectives of epidemiological research might greatly increase the potential for evidence-based policy.
Childhood origins of adult diseases
Our health as adults is linked to more than just our lifestyle and
environment in adulthood. As well as being influenced by genetic
factors, our risk of developing certain diseases in adulthood is
influenced by factors operating during fetal development and childhood.
Our current research aims to identify pre-natal or early childhood causes of common chronic diseases that affect us as children and adults. We have a particular focus on investigating what affects our risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Understanding the childhood origins of these conditions can provide evidence to support policies that would have an impact on those causes and thereby improve our health.
Current and recent research
- Life course influences on visual impairment
- Infection and the development of asthma and allergies
- Hip joint development in infancy and adolescence
- Changes in BMI and how it affects our risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Short-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hypermetropia) and astigmatism, all forms of refractive error, comprise the most common eye conditions worldwide. Research using data from the 1958 Birth Cohort has been used to investigate how biological, environmental, and lifestyle factors influence refractive error from birth to mid-adult life, and to understand what health and social outcomes result from refractive error at different ages. In the long-term this could contribute to strategies for preventing and treating refractive errors, which are disorders with high impact on individuals and society.
Our findings have offered clues for example to understanding the global increase in myopia over the past two decades. They have identified new avenues for research, which has until recently focused on ‘visual/ocular’ risk factor, such as intense reading during formal education. They also serve to identify important environmental risk factors that should be accounted for (as co-variates) in future genetic epidemiological investigations of refractive error.
Ongoing research using data from the Millennium Cohort Study is investigating the prevalence and distribution of eye conditions and visual impairment and associations with early social and biological factors, such as socio-economic status and ethnicity. This research has been used to inform the planning and provision of healthcare services for visual impairment.
More information: Vision and eyes
It has been suggested that infections in early life may alter immune development and the subsequent risk of asthma and allergies.
We are studying this in the Millennium Cohort Study by looking at certain infections in three-year-olds and relating them to later onset of asthma and allergies.
Principal investigator: Carol Dezateux
Abnormal hip joint development is an important underlying cause in adults needing ip joint replacements under the age of 60. However, little is known about the relationship between childhood growth, hip socket shape and depth in early childhood and the mature hip socket shape and depth in late adolescence, when the skeleton has reached its adult proportions.
We are collaborating with Professor Karen Rosendahl in a follow-up study, funded by Arthritis Research UK, of more than 2,000 Norwegian adolescents born in 1989 whose hip shape was measured by ultrasound when babies and by low-dose X-rays when young adults.
By linking this to childhood growth and medical records and family history of hip problems we are gaining unique insights into how factors operating during childhood contribute to adult hip health.
Results of this study were presented at a plenary session of the RCPCH 2012 Annual Conference in Glasgow:
Principal investigator: Carol Dezateux
Team: Francesco Sera
By analysing data from the 1958 Birth Cohort we investigated how childhood obesity and changes to BMI over the life course affected the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The conclusion was that excessive BMI gain across the life span and earlier onset of overweight or obesity were associated with impaired glucose metabolism, in part because of the final BMI.
Principal investigator: Chris Power
Page last modified on 14 nov 12 14:34